Pet travel: Yes, pigs do fly!

If you’re thinking about taking your pet along next time you fly, why?  Seriously, I realize  there’s no choice sometimes. If that’s the case, here are your options.

First, make sure it’s up to the trip. Flying is stressful enough for humans, let alone animals. How stressful? Consider your dog getting all freaked out during thunderstorms or fireworks displays (like mine), and multiply that many times over.

Many domestic airlines allow carry-on dogs. cats or household birds if they fit comfortably in a carrier under the seat in front of you . The carrier is generally considered either a carry-on bag or personal item. In many cases, you must make a reservation for your pet.

But the ASPCA suggests  that if the pet isn’t small enough to be in the cabin with you under those circumstances, think twice.

You have no choice with some airlines. They’re no longer allowing certain dog and cat breeds prone to breathing problems to fly as “checked baggage” in airplane holds. The reason: too many deaths.

You’d think sedation would help soothe an animal alone in the hold. Not so, say veterinarians. Being doped up can actually endanger your pet.

Service animals fly free, and may travel in the cabin as long as they can fit on the floor next to the passenger.

These are general guidelines. All major airlines have websites or reservations agents who can get into more specifics on rules and fares.

Bosley, the pot-bellied pig. Credit: T.C. McCarthy

For those who shudder at the thought of putting their best friend in the hold (like I do) there may be other alternatives if you have the cash. One is Pet Airways. This Florida-based airline caters only to “pawsengers” — primarily dogs and cats. (Although a pot-bellied pig was recently aboard.)

All travel in carriers in the climate-controlled cabin. Human attendants monitor the animals, and they get frequent potty breaks. Other than that, no hoominz allowed.

The airline services 10 cities nationwide. Each city has a “pet lounge” for pets to wait before and after the flight.

Don't worry, Ginger; you're not going anywhere.

Fare depends on size of the pet carrier and travel distance. I used my dachshund, Ginger, just to get a sample online fare. Don’t worry, Ginger; you’re not going anywhere. But if you were, the cost would be over $800 round-trip coast-to-coast from New York to L.A. And that’s for a small dog that weighs less than 20 pounds.

Another possibility is Pet Jets.  Unlike Pet Airways, this service offers humans a chance to fly with their pets aboard charter planes, and says the travel time is much less than the competition. The company offers a travel club. For a membership fee, you can team up with other owners to share the cost of the charter.

No matter what direction you take, all pets should be up-to-date on vaccinations, and some airlines require a health certificate. Consult with the airline and your vet. And if your pet is a bit on the aggressive side, like a certain jealous dachshund I know, the airline needs to know that, too.

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